It’s a town both interesting and beautiful in all levels. Famous for its history as Greece’s first capital, dotted with monuments underlining its glorious past, with museums containing important collections of various subjects, with 4 fortresses within walking distance from the centre of the old town and countless cobblestone alleys to wander around, admiring the graceful, pastel-painted, neoclassical buildings. Nafplio delights all senses and has devoted fans and frequent visitors, who know that no matter how often they visit this picturesque, historic city that ranks among the prettiest in Greece, there will always be something appealing to see and do. Like the orthodox churches, scattered around the old town of Nafplio, that stand as witnesses of the city’s past and narrate stories from various historic periods.
Locating and visiting them is an experience both interesting and educating, that will reward you with attractive images and significant facts that played an important role in the evolution of the modern Greek state.
Following a timeline path, an ideal starting point of a walk around Nafplio’s historic churches would be Vrahateika neighbourhood, in one of the old city’s highest levels. It’s the area with the characteristic small dome of the church “Saint Sophia and the 3 daughters”, dating from the 10th century. This octagonal basilica whose dome is covered in red tiles, had been converted into a straw storage building during the Ottoman occupation period, as attending the church was forbidden forth local population. However, in 1779 Hasan Pasa, the superior Ottoman administrator, returned the church to Nafplio’s inhabitants and allowed the orthodox religious services. The last renovation that gave the church the present exterior look was completed in 1825, four years after the heroic Greek War of Independence.
Equally picturesque and wedged into the rocky foothills of Acronafplia, is the tiny temple devoted to Virgin Mary, that was built in 1500, when Nafplio was under the Venetian rule and expanded outside its castles. The first identified mention of this church is found in 1571, when its depicted οn a copperplate with the name «Santa Maria di Grotte» – «The Virgin of the caves». Much later, during the Ottoman occupation, it was used as a covert school for the people of Nafplio who secretly gathered and studied behind its whitewashed walls.
Behind the city’s main square, Sytnagma Square, you’ll find Nafplio’s most impressive church, the Holly Temple of Virgin Mary’s Birth, which is dedicated to the city’s patron, Saint Anastasios. It’s a three-nave basilica without a dome, whose impressive interior is a true work of art. The stunning gilded altarpiece created in 1877, is entirely made of carved wood and captures the eyesight with its delicate details. Take the time to observe it carefully and then head to the matroneum on the upper level to enjoy a panoramic view of the church’s magnificent interior.
Finally, on of Nafplio’s most historic sites, is St Spyridonas church, is the place where Ioannis Capodistias, the first Governor of the free Greek state was murdered on the 26th of September in 1831. The present church stands on the site of a destroyed temple, previously erected by the Venetians. Its octagonal dome can be identified from various parts of the old city and the interior which is painted in light blue tones evokes a sense of calmness and serenity. Before entering the temple in order to admire the marble altarpiece and the painting that depicts this dramatic event, take a close look at a small glass showcase, which encloses the mark left by one of the bullets shot against Capodistrias on one of the gloomiest days of Greece’s history.